I’m a late twenty-something mother of one, married to my high school sweetheart. After obtaining my bachelor’s degree I worked long hours in corporate America, enthralled by all of the opportunities to rise in the ranks. After having my son, I lusted for a position where I could be with him more. I found myself looking for other options—part time positions where I could be home several days per week and have the needed flexibility to have an active role in my son’s life. I turned down several positions before finally stumbling upon a position at a church close to my home. The thought made my stomach queasy. I knew that I could sufficiently handle the workings of a church office, but wasn’t so sure that I’d be able to adapt to an Episcopal church as a closet atheist. More so, if I took the position and anyone found out, would that be offensive to them? Would it jeopardize my job? I certainly had no intentions of making anyone uncomfortable, and find that religion and religious freedom are wonderful things.
I took the job.
Quickly I had flashbacks to my high school required reading of The Scarlet Letter. Perhaps a little drastic, considering that outside of being an atheist I’m a fairly ethical, boring person. But the feeling of shame was immense. I was worried that my atheism would somehow show through and I’d be branded with a giant red letter.
I grew up going to various churches. I believed, without doubt. My belief was perhaps one of the only constants in my life.
Then my childhood took a turn, and everything crumbled. My family no longer went to church. The pieces that had fallen apart could not be put back together. A few years passed and I found myself going to church with a friend’s family. I continued to go to this church by myself until late high school, when things started to change. For the first time, I had doubt. Immense, crippling doubt, which was only amplified by my required philosophy courses in college. I found myself in uncharted territory, and in a mindset where I could no longer force myself to believe in anything, as much as I wanted to, and as much as I missed the feeling of belonging.
So here I am. The atheist church secretary, hoping it’s okay to keep such an intense secret. I had formed such a deep perception of the Christian faith, and religion in general. I had branded it as an establishment that only had malicious intents that were displayed outwardly as being benevolent. I was labeling an entire group solely based upon my experiences, and I had created a deep-rooted ideology that Christians were not the people for me.
I can say now, I was wrong.
I have been impressed by the Episcopal Church in ways I didn’t think possible.
I came into this church with stereotypes and negative expectations. Instead, I’ve gotten to know some of the most gracious, kind-hearted people that this planet has to offer. I’ve seen their words backed by actions, and their willingness to step out of their comfort zones just to lend a hand, with no true expectation of “saving” anyone. I’ve seen their outreach programs in action, watched them give food to the poor. I’ve seen them embrace their LGBT community, and welcome them in with open arms. I’ve seen them march next to the thousands of women that marched globally for equality. I’ve seen their willingness to compromise, to adapt to the ever-changing world around us. I’ve seen their actions. And I’ve seen so much love in what they’re doing.
So here I am. Your closet atheist. Finally seeing some light. Some good. Some change. Some work towards peace and acceptance.
Here I am, your closet atheist with some hope. Some feeling that perhaps there is a higher power doing some good after all.
So what’s my point?
You may think that your good deeds are not an outward sign of your faith, but your evangelism is shown in the simplest of forms. You never know who is noticing your deeds and why you do them. You may be subtly, and positively impacting your closet atheist without knowing that you are.